News Ukraine corruption scandal: US promises ‘tough monitoring’ of aid

The United States vowed on Tuesday to closely monitor how Ukraine spends billions of dollars in aid after a damaging corruption scandal led to a string of resignations in Kyiv.

While Washington said there was no evidence Western funds were being misused, State Department spokesman Ned Price promised “rigorous oversight” to ensure U.S. aid was not misappropriated.

Several senior Ukrainian officials were fired on Tuesday following a corruption scandal surrounding illegal payments to deputy ministers and overinflated military contracts.

A total of five local governors, four deputy ministers and two heads of government agencies left their posts, as did the deputy chief of staff of the presidential administration and the deputy attorney general.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an evening speech that the purge was “necessary” to maintain a “strong state,” while Price hailed it as “swift” and “necessary.”

Still, the scandal comes at a sensitive time for Kyiv, as it needs increasing support from the west and faces Russian advances in the east.

Corruption could dampen Western enthusiasm for Ukraine’s government, which has long suffered from shaky governance.

Over the weekend, anti-corruption police arrested the deputy infrastructure minister on charges of accepting 367,000 euros in bribes to buy overpriced generators, a charge he denies.

It comes as civilians in Ukraine are suffering from prolonged power outages amid Russia’s severe attack on the country’s energy infrastructure.

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian newspaper investigation accused the Ministry of Defense of signing contracts to supply food to front-line troops at “two to three times” the normal price.

Analysts believe that the high-profile resignation shows that corruption is not only criminally responsible, but also politically responsible.

“It’s a good example of how institutions and anti-corruption and checks and balances were built after the reform and opening up. [2014 Maidan] While an all-out war is going on, the Dignity Revolution is at work,” Kateryna Ryzhenko of Ukraine’s Transparency International, an anti-corruption NGO, told Euronews.

“But when these cases are decided within the full scope of the law, the last part of these matters should be done by the prosecution, the investigative agencies and the courts,” she added.

The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, which is said to have signed the high-priced contract worth 320 million euros, said the resignation would help “maintain the confidence of society and international partners”.

On Sunday, it dismissed the allegations as “misinformation” and warned they harmed “defense interests in extraordinary times”.

In January, the leader of the Russian republic of Chechnya slammed Western aid to Ukraine as a “money laundering scheme”.

“I see some people worry about foreign aid to Ukraine. Don’t worry! It’s an effective money laundering scheme. Western and Ukrainian officials will embezzle the funds and no more than 15% of the total aid will go to the trenches,” Ramzanka Droff wrote in the telegram.

Staunch Putin allies have no evidence to support that claim.

Zelenskyy was elected in 2019 promising wide-ranging reforms to fight corruption and improve the economy.

The Ukrainian president has fired numerous ministers and officials during his tenure in an effort to combat malign influence by powerful people in the country.

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